Merced sheriff's brother dies while visiting family

Brian Pazin, the 48-year-old younger brother of Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin, has died.

Brian Pazin was in the Fresno area Thursday, visiting family to celebrate Thanksgiving. He had gone to sleep, but was unresponsive when family members tried to awaken him the next day, according to Deputy Tom MacKenzie, sheriff's spokesman.

Paramedics were called, but they were unable to save him. Fresno County Coroner David Hadden said the cause of death won't be known until an autopsy has been completed. MacKenzie said Brian Pazin wasn't under a doctor's care, and there were no obvious signs of what caused the death.

Hadden said an autopsy report might not be available until next week.

Sheriff Pazin said he and his family are completely devastated by the loss, and thankful to friends who have supported them during this difficult time. The sheriff said he and his brother had gone pheasant hunting recently, and they'd planned on gathering for the holiday weekend.

The sheriff said his brother held a deep love for the community and was always a fixture at important benefits and events. "Whether it was the Mercy Hospital Foundation fundraiser, a chamber of commerce fundraiser, going to the Elks (lodge) for lunch or dinner or going to the Italo-American Lodge, we did it together," Sheriff Pazin said. "It's going to leave an empty space at the table when we sit down because Brian was always there with us, one way or the other."

The youngest child of longtime Mercedians John and Nada Pazin, Brian Pazin and his wife of 18 years, Chrissy, have two sons, Travis, 14, and Jared, 12. He's also survived by his brother Richard and sister Renee Garrett.

A 1980 graduate of Merced High, Brian Pazin worked for his family's oil distribution business, Pazin & Myers. He was also owner of Card Gas, a local automated fuel dispensary.

While friends and family members mourned Pazin's death over the weekend, they also shared fond recollections about him, calling him a loving husband and someone with a caring heart for kids and the elderly.

A member of the Elks Lodge in Merced, Pazin was also an avid bowler. "He just had a wicked left-handed hook," Sheriff Pazin recalled. Case in point, in 1997 he scored a perfect game in a doubles tournament with fellow bowler Bruce Ingraham at Century Bowl in Merced. That year, there were only five perfect games scored at the bowling alley, according to friend Don Surdich.

Surdich said he used to joke around with Brian Pazin, calling him a "banty rooster" because of his remarkable bowling swagger. Pazin had "a heart of gold and would do anything for you," Surdich recalled.

Bobby Johnson, a math teacher at Livingston High School who's been friends with Pazin since they were teens, spoke of his "one of a kind personality" and "great sense of humor." Pazin was known to elicit laughter with his unique style of dance at parties.

Johnson also remarked about Pazin's generosity, saying they'd spoken last Monday about donation checks he'd written supporting the baseball programs at Golden Valley High School and Merced College. "He was a really giving person who could make you feel real good and make you laugh," Johnson said. "He was someone I could talk to about anything."

Merced College President Ben Duran called Pazin a "family man" who will be deeply missed. Duran first met Brian Pazin 25 years ago, when Duran worked at Le Grand High School. The school used to buy fuel from the Pazin family's company. "He was always respectful, always had a smile, and always had a piece of trivia that he could share with you," Duran said. "He was a TV guy, who knew a lot of television trivia. Anything you wanted to know about the Andy Griffith Show, he could tell you."

Merced County District Attorney Larry Morse II said he was greatly saddened upon hearing about Brian Pazin's death, calling him a "devoted husband and father" who was extremely "sensitive and sweet natured."

"Anyone who knows the Pazin family knows they are extremely close and tight-knit. This is just devastating to them, " Morse said. "Brian was a very devoted husband and father. It just breaks everyone's heart to think of Chrissy and the kids. It's just a completely unimaginable loss."

Brian Pazin's funeral service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday at St. Patrick's Church, located at 671 E. Yosemite Ave. in Merced.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.